Interview with comedian Lisa Lampanelli
It takes a tough broad to hang with the boys in the world of comedy, and Lisa Lampanelli is so tough that the boys are actually afraid of her. Her routine (you’ve no doubt seen her on a number of Comedy Central roasts), which focuses mainly on ripping the paying audience to ribbons, is the kind of stuff you’d get out of Don Rickles after messing with his medication. It’s venomous, yes, but playful; her secret weapon is that she’s equal opportunity, and in doing so makes everyone part of the joke and lets them in on it as well.
Bullz-Eye caught up with the lovable Queen of Mean, on the road to support her new album Take It Like a Man, in a hotel outside of Kansas City with a phone system that sounded worse than if we had strung a wire between two tin cans. Luckily, she had her cell phone handy.
Bullz-Eye: So you’re in Kansas now.
Lisa Lampanelli: Yeah, whoopee!
BE: Where are you playing out there?
LL: A place called Stanford & Sons. It’s right outside of Kansas City, Missouri. This place has way too many white people. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to do my act tonight. It’s hard to be an insult comic when the people you make fun of are white, and beige, and ecru, you know? But whatever, I’ll pretend that somebody’s black, there’s always someone who’s willing to sit in the front, grow a longer dick, and quit their job, you know what I mean?
BE: (laughs) Yes.
LL: Can we curse on your radio, by the way?
BE: Well, this isn’t radio, this is for a web site.
LL: Okay. Can I curse on your web site?
BE: The rule for the writers is “aggressively PG-13.”
LL: Okay, we’ll be as aggressive and as PG as we can.
BE: It’s okay. I talked to Dane Cook, and he’s pretty liberal with the “motherfuckers,” so…
LL: Oh, there you go!
BE: So you’re in Kansas. How many dates a year do you do now?
LL: Oh, man. I never stay home. It’s like 50 weeks a year on the road. I’m going broke from buying all the porn off the TV. But still, this is nothing to complain about. This is so much better than being in an office doing a job that I hate. So, thank God that the only thing that’s bugging me is people on airplanes. Other than that, I’m fine.
BE: I hear you. I did the office thing for about 10 years, and now I do this from home.
LL: Aw, it’s so much nicer, isn’t it?
BE: Yeah, I actually get to see my wife every once in a while.
LL: Well, at least you have a wife. My black boyfriend just dumped me last week.
BE: You know what, that was my last question in the interview. I was going to ask if you actually had a black boyfriend.
LL: No, of course not. I mean, if I have to bang every type of group that I make fun of, my vagina would just fall off, okay? I don’t make fun of blacks because I bang blacks; I bang blacks because they’re hot and sexy. At my weight, I could get a chubby white guy or a hot black. Jerrod from Subway, no thanks. LL Cool J, step right in.
BE: I liked the line (on the Take It Like a Man album) about the refrigerator (“Remember the good old days, when a black guy would bang a refrigerator if it was white?”). That made me laugh.
LL: Oh, it’s so true, because years ago, that’s what I could get. Now I have to get more famous to get a good looking black. My problem is, my boyfriend dumps me because I guess I’m away too much, ‘cause I am away like every week, and I forget to put him on my list of things to do. And it’s just hilarious because you’re on the road, you’re doing your thing, and oh my God, now I have to worry about getting laid, too? So that’s really rough.
But last week, I had my first booty call in, like, four years. It was very exciting, it was this bouncer. You know how bouncers are always black because people are afraid of them? But the way to do a booty call, I learned from my gay friend Wendel, is you pick the stupidest, hottest guy, and you never give him your phone number, because you don’t want him to call you back. So I’m learning how to be a gay man on the road.
BE: That sounds like sage advice.
LL: It’s very fun! I tell ya, the gays have it all figured out. The problem was, I didn’t get no sleep, not because we were banging the whole time, but because my purse was in the same room. And (laughing) I was nervous about falling asleep. So I just hid it under the couch, with a bunch of laundry and his work boots on top of it, and thought, He’ll never find it.
BE: My first exposure to you was the (Jeff) Foxworthy roast.
LL: Oh, my favorite. Wasn’t that so much fun?
BE: I had never heard your name before, and then I saw you lay that entire Blue Collar group to complete waste.
LL: That was the most fun night of my life.
BE: I had a couple questions about the roasts in general, but also about that roast in particular. How much has your life changed since that gig? How many people have you run into that have said the same thing that I just did?
LL: A million people. And my price went up instantly, which is great. And it’s not that we’re in this for the money, but when people come to the clubs, it helps when they give you more dough. (The gig) got me known where my manager would get calls – “We want Lisa Lampanelli to do this little bit part and that” – and Larry the Cable Guy just put me in his movie, which comes out in 2006. But before, I had done that Chevy Chase roast, but nobody watched that, because nobody likes him. He’s a total douche.
BE: (laughs) Roasts are obviously supposed to be mean fun, but that Chevy Chase roast was one of the most mean-spirited things I have ever seen.
LL: Well, because he was such an A-hole. I’ve always thought that the more tongue in cheek the roast comes off, like Foxworthy, he’s such a great guy. I mean, there is nobody who has a legitimate complaint with Jeff Foxworthy.
BE: Well, how could you?
LL: Exactly, and Larry the Cable Guy, they’re all just great guys. And because none of us (roasting Foxworthy) meant anything that we said, it came off so much funnier. And I was the only chick on that, so that helps. You know, “wow, she’s the only girl and she did so good,” this and that. But this Pam Anderson (roast) made it a million times better, because of all those celebs like Courtney Love made idiots out of themselves. And I got to cash in.
BE: I have to admit, I haven’t seen that one yet.
LL: Oh, my God. Dude, Courtney Love and Andy Dick, they misbehaved so much that it was on CNN and Access Hollywood. So everybody wanted to watch it, and because of (Love and Dick) being idiots, people got to know who I was. I’m like, bring it on, drink some more, Courtney, you old whore.
BE: I lose track of all the times I’ve read about Courtney Love doing something stupid.
LL: Oh, well, she did something even stupider. After my set, because I had to headline the thing, I go up, I do really well, she grabs me, and before I know it, she’s kissing me on the lips. Now, listen, I ain’t had a dyke encounter, and I got nothing against lesbo encounters, but I figured that if I had one, that I would be the ugly one. I mean, of all the broads there, of all the chicks that could have planted one on me, like Pam Anderson, Anna Nicole Smith…I would have made out with Bea Arthur, do you understand? I would rather have a Golden Girl on my face than that broad. And she tasted terrible; she tasted like Marion Barry’s morning breath.
BE: I was going to say, is it the Colin Farrell blend of whiskey and cigarettes, or was there more to it?
LL: Ha ha! Much, much worse. She’s a really crazy bitch, and I like crazy bitches, but when she walks into the makeup room, I’m not lying, she goes, “Make me look like Marilyn Monroe.” And I think the guy thought she said Marilyn Manson.
BE: “There just isn’t that much makeup, Courtney, I’m sorry.”
LL: There isn’t enough to make her look like Marilyn does today, six feet under. But hey, the more she misbehaves, and the more that Andy Dick acts like a loser, hey, thank goodness the byproducts of that really helped.
BE: A few months back I did an email interview with Larry the Cable Guy.
LL: (Cheering) Yay! I love him.
BE: All right, now quick: how many jokes just sprung into your head when I said, “email interview with Larry the Cable Guy”?
LL: You know, I can’t believe he has indoor plumbing, much less a computer.
BE: You should have seen (his original, unedited email). I’m going to assume his house was on fire when he was typing it.
LL: Oh, that’s so funny. The grammar, the spelling, I’m sure he doesn’t seek out spellcheck. He cracks me up. I swear to God, he is my hero right now. Because anyone who can sell that many albums and create such a character that America just gloms onto, that guy’s a genius. Plus, he works his ass off. This is what I love about him: When the guy who’s, like, in his late 30s and whatnot, who’s been working his ass off for 20 years, finally gets what (he deserves). Like, yay, there’s still hope for us all.
BE: The one thing I mentioned to him was that by comparison to the shellacking that Ron (White) and Bill (Engvall) got at your expense, I thought you let Larry off pretty easy. So I asked him if he slipped you a twenty.
BE: Or if you two were dating in secrecy.
LL: You know what’s weird is he’s the one white guy I’d bang. There’s something really sexy about a guy who can’t spell his own name.
BE: A guy who doesn’t have sleeves…
LL: Oh, that’s just hot, that’s really sexy. You know what’s funny, he lost all this weight. He started to look too good for his audience, so thankfully he’s putting it back on. When we did the movie it was so funny, (his) movie’s called “Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector.” My manager calls me and says, “The director saw your (Comedy Central) special, he wants to write a part for you.” I swear to God, I thought she said “love interest,” but she said, “Larry the Cable Guy’s love interest’s mother.” (laughs) And at first I’m all flattered, I get to make out with him, you know? And she’s like, “No, no, no: Mom.” So they had to age me to be 65 years old, it was really cool. I was like, Oh, I’m not getting laid on this set.
BE: I talked to Dane (Cook) about the roasts, and I wanted to get a second opinion on this. He said that they go on way too long, and that everybody’s smashed about halfway through.
LL: Well, that definitely was true with the Pam Anderson one. That (roast) was three hours. You guys only saw an hour and a half with commercials. It was three hours. And what happens is everybody’s parlaying to get their guys on the show. You know, these celebrities have their friends that they want on (the show), like Tommy Lee, and Courtney Love, and rightfully so, you know? But then they have to stick three or four legitimate comics on to actually roast, like (Greg) Giraldo, and (Nick) DiPaolo, and me, and Jeff Ross. So it’s all these guys kind of jockeying for position, and it does go on way too long, it’s retarded. And then they edit it down anyway, so the guys who are last up have the toughest job, because they have to keep these people alive.
BE: So when I heard your record after seeing that roast, I really had no idea what to expect from you, and then I heard it and thought, Oh my.
LL: Yeah, I know, it’s a little tame, isn’t it? I should be more edgy and come out of my shell more.
BE: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that.
LL: (laughs) Yeah, right? Well, it’s really funny because I’m an insult comic, so on these roasts, I have this high pressure to do well, whereas if anybody else tanks, it’s okay. But that’s just what I do for a living. I roast people every night three times a night, so I better freaking do a good job.
BE: Did you start off like that? Before you were Queen of Mean, were you Princess of Propriety?
LL: Aw, I like when you use big words. What a turn on. I was never nice, but I was always likable. I started out like a normal comic, writing out five minutes of material about what was going on in my life. And eventually I started listening to tapes of my shows, and I was like, Wow, the funniest stuff, and the stuff I’m laughing at, is when I’m fucking with the audience. So I thought, Okay, I’m going to do more of this. About seven years ago, I guess I started committing hard to it, and saying (to myself), the more that other people aren’t going to say about these issues, the more I’m going to say. I’m not going to be that typical chick comic who talks about PMS, and dating, and-
BE: And thank God for that.
LL: Well, I had someone come up to me after a show and say, “You don’t make fun of men enough.” I said, “I’ll leave that to every other woman comic in the world, you twat.” I mean, come on, man! Why do I have to do that? I just went through the breakup of this relationship. I would never get up there and start man-bashing like that. Too many people do it already.
BE: So you’ve got this (insult comic) thing down to an art now, and you’re drawing much bigger crowds, you’re taking more at the door, which is awesome. But where do you take it from here? Right now, it’s Fun with Stereotypes, but do you ever think about what the next level of insult comedy’s going to be for you?
LL: There’s always some disaster to make fun of. There’s the hurricane, there’s the tsunami, there’s rape, there’s AIDS, there’s incest. So I think as long as there’s stuff that makes me laugh without forcing it, that really amuses me to talk about onstage…like last week I talked a lot about the relationship, the breakup, and some stereotyping was in there. I also talked about stuff like the hurricane, and all these f’ing rubber bracelets that we all have to wear. Oh, another tragedy, another bracelet, how many fucking things do I’ve got because he’s got a sore left nut, you know what I’m talking about? Whatever, Lance. He has to bang that ugly Sheryl Crow. Horrrrible. At least he didn’t have to go that far.
BE: Oh, man, half my writing staff’s going to freak out when they see that line.
LL: Why? She’s horrible.
BE: They love Sheryl Crow.
LL: Yeah, what are they, dykes? I saw a picture of her without makeup, and she looked like somebody ought to drop a house on her. I’m sorry, she’s old, (Lance) could do better. But you see, as comics, we have to make fun of that stuff that you would cry about if you were a real person. To me, if you make a rape joke, like if you get raped by a good looking guy, then it’s not rape. I legitimately think fucked up things like that, and I say it. And people don’t normally get mad, and if they do, I buy a bracelet. It’s a dollar for rape. There you go.
BE: You talk about other women comics, and the differences in your material, that kind of thing. But you’re not really playing with the women comics; you’re playing with the boys. What is that like?
LL: It’s great, because I don’t ever have to hear, “You’re funny for a woman.” It’s always just, “You’re fucking funny.” I don’t have those dopey stories that broads have, with their dumb husbands and their dumb PMS and all that crap. And there are a couple (of comedians) out there that I really respect. I love the shit out of Kathy Griffin, because she tells real stories that really happen to her. Other than her, I can’t be bothered to watch none of them. I’m like a guy comic with boobs, who occasionally gets laid.I’m even a white comic that even the blacks like a lot. I did the BET Comic View. I just did this thing, 20,000 seats, with D.L. Hughley and Carlos Mencia in LA. And that was urban as hell, and I love being that one white person that the blacks like, you know? It’s cool.
BE: Yes. Comedy does seem to be pretty…there’s not a whole lot of (racial) crossover.
LL: Exactly, and it’s nice to be that one that does. I was always that chick that guys would invite to the bachelor party, because I’m like a guy. It’s translated to comedy, where I’m the one white person they’ll invite to be in their black show, and they say, “She’s not a corny white bitch, like we thought she’d be.” I look like a soccer mom from Connecticut, and then I talk, and they’re like, “Shit, she knows our people.” So that feels nice, you know, to get that acceptance as the outsider.
BE: I need to ask you a little more about your background, because as you know, I just learned your name about four or five months ago. How long have you been on the circuit?
LL: I guess I started about 14 years ago. I sort of did the road for about seven years, and then I moved to New York and started doing all the New York clubs. And that’s when the Chevy Chase roast happened. I got a manager in L.A., who handles Foxworthy and those people, and then everything started taking off from there, actually getting TV credits and things like that.
BE: So you actually started right about the time that the first really big (comedy) wave was coming down.
LL: Yep. And I guess that’s good, in a way, because you really had to search and try hard for stage time, instead of the ‘80s, where everybody was headlining, and you had seven minutes, because there were so many clubs and so few comics. So yeah, I made it when I should have. It took some extra work.
BE: To bring back Dane Cook, that’s what he said. He said he hit the clubs, and all of the veterans said, “Oh, you just missed it. It ended about a week ago.”
LL: Yep, that’s absolutely true, when the money started going down, and they stopped paying for hotel rooms, that’s when I started. Great!
BE: “Sorry, we don’t have any coke; we’re just opening packets of sugar and lining them up. Does that work for you?”
LL: Right, exactly, dude.
BE: So what are your plans for the next six months to a year? You’ve got the movie…
LL: I just got a deal last week with HBO Independent Productions, which is the production company that develops shows for HBO and other networks. So with them behind me, thank God, we’re shopping the sitcom around next week. My agent said, “Oh, she’s the next Roseanne,” and I totally agree with them. I really think this could be a very big show, because it’s really a family sitcom, it just happens to have a black guy in it. And a gay friend, because I’ve got my fag on the road with me all the time.
BE: That’s Wendel, the guy that introduced you on your DVD, right?
LL: Yep, and he’s working with me this weekend. I drag him all over the country, and get him cornholed once in a while. That makes him happy.
BE: And he teaches you how to do booty calls, so it works out well for both of you.
LL: See? It’s a win-win situation. Oh, and I just found out Comedy Central offered me another hour-long special. We’re going to tape that next year, so that’s nice. I’m taping Comedy Central’s “Last Laugh,” which is their big year-end wrap-up, and VH-1’s big wrap-up show, called “The Best of 2005.” And in the meantime I’ll be taking lots of acting classes, because I’ll be honest with you, dude, if I get this sitcom, I gotta freaking pretend I’m an actor!
BE: Not really. I’ve noticed that most standups, they don’t really seem to be trying that hard, and they do just fine. You’re prowling a stage in front of a bunch of unruly people who have paid to see you, half of whom are drunk and want to heckle you. As opposed to being on a sound stage and in front of a completely controlled audience. You’ll be fine.
LL: Well, I thought, Can I really play myself? (laughs) I thought the funniest thing was when Lewis Black once told me that somebody was looking for a Lewis Black type for a movie, and he had to audition to play his own type. I go, Craaaaap. So hopefully, I’ll be able to play myself on my own show. And if this show doesn’t happen, I think I gotta keep doing (standup), and selling out bigger and bigger places, and see what happens.
BE: Cool, well, I think I’ve gone over time here. I’m sure you have other people to talk to, so thank you for your time, and thanks for talking with me.
LL: Oh, you’re great! You know something about comedy, and that’s so rare. You have to understand, there’s so many people that don’t even watch comedy, so thank you for actually taking the time to watch this stuff. So is this going to be on this web site, Bullz-Eye.com?
BE: Yeah. Oh, you’d love the web site, because it’s a men’s magazine kind of thing, full of all those skinny bitches.
LL: Oh, nice. I love that shit!
BE: Yeah. You wanna do a photo shoot for us?
LL: (terrified) AAAUUUUGGHHH!! Maybe next year, after I shed my unwanted love handles.